House Bill 1425 generated a lengthy debate on the Senate floor before lawmakers passed it in a 31-14 vote. It’s now on its way to Gov. Doug Burgum.
The bill would require prosecution of sex crimes in which the victim was less than 18 years old at the time of the offense to begin within 21 years of the crime taking place. That deadline is currently 10 years.
The bill doesn’t change existing law allowing prosecutors to pursue charges within three years if there’s a delay in reporting.
The bill was championed by Edgeley Republican Rep. Mike Brandenburg and his wife, who said she was sexually abused as a child but didn’t come forward until the statute of limitations had passed.
Proponents have cited recent high-profile cases of sexual abuse in the church, athletic organizations and elsewhere. They argued the bill would send a message that policymakers won’t tolerate child sexual abuse.
But opponents worried about infringing on the rights of people accused of crimes.
“It’s a question of fundamental fairness,” said Republican Sen. David Hogue, an attorney from Minot. “At what point do you decide that it’s too hard to get a fair trial when people’s memories have faded,